I bemoan the day the zombie usurped the punkin as the unofficial mascot of Halloween.
Halloween used to be simple. You got a punkin, cut off its top, gouged out its stringy orange insides, and carved a face on it that looked like your brother. But that just wasn’t good enough for some folks.
I realize this may mark me as one of those people who resurface every October, hollering about the perils of Halloween. Not me. I have been quietly celebrating it a long time and have never been moved, no matter how many bushels of candy corn I consumed, to run off and worship the devil. But I fear this holiday has lost its soul.
I blame the zombies.
Don’t pretend you haven’t noticed, what with all their moaning and lurching and…well, I guess moaning and lurching is all they do, if you don’t count standing around looking walleyed and gnashing their bad teeth. You can’t swing a dead black cat this time of year without knocking a few down like bowling pins, which is not hard to do, considering they move at the pace of a box turtle, more nuisance than fright. Anything I can walk briskly away from—and that list gets shorter every year—is unlikely to strike fear in my heart. I figure I should still be able to outsprint a zombie when I am a hundred and fifteen. That is, if they don’t annoy me to death first.
I should not care so deeply about them, but there are so many rubber-legging around these days that they threaten to become the iconic image of my favorite time of year. Halloween has always been, to me, a time to smile at things that frighten us, to watch the night sky for witches but encounter them only as they walk down the street on the way to Ruby Tuesday. I used to be afraid of vampires, but how can you fear one 3 feet tall, squinting in my porch light, trying not to swallow his drugstore fangs when his mama smacks him upside the head for forgetting to say “thank you” for the Sugar Babies?
Mostly I love Halloween because it is the orange-and-black beginning of a season that tumbles into Thanksgiving, which tumbles into Christmas. And zombies just seem a little out of place in that. Thanksgiving should have nothing to do with armies of the shuffling undead. Don’t get me started on Christmas. The only undead at Christmas should be Jacob Marley, wailing about greed.
The iconic image of Halloween should be, as God intended, the punkin. The punkin, carved into faces that are scary only because we want them to be, winking from every front porch. The punkin, cast in plastic, swinging from the hands of knee-high princesses, leering back from department store shelves, until it gives way to tins of butter cookies.
But I fear for the punkin. How long before he is kicked down the street by zombie hordes, booted into obscurity? Young people tell me that no one—no one—wants to dress up like a punkin anymore. All a punkin does, they say, is sit there, and glow.
This may be true, all of it, but try to make a pie out of a zombie and see where that gets you.